Kindred Kids

"Enter into children's play and you will find the place where their minds, hearts and souls meet" Virginia Axline

The central therapeutic approach I use with children is Synergetic Play Therapy (SPT). I have specialized training, experience and supervision in SPT and hold a certification. SPT is an effective, developmentally appropriate, evidence-based treatments for children in a clinical counselling setting. I also use EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) child protocol, which I have post-graduate training in, to help children resolve childhood trauma among other clinical concerns. 

Synergetic Play Therapy is effective for children who are experiencing or have experienced:

  • Anxiety and depression

  • Low self-confidence/self-esteem

  • Parental conflict, separation or divorce

  • Death of loved one (person or pet), or loss (relationship, hope, important beliefs etc.)

  • Transition (New school or grade, new sibling, new step family, moving, divorce etc.)

  • Bullying or social/relational challenges

  • Adjustment to adoption or foster care

  • Illness or hospitalization of self or loved one

  • Trauma (Relational, natural disasters, single incident, illness-related, cultural, community-based etc.)

  • Abuse (Sexual, physical, emotional, spiritual and neglect)

  • Witnessed domestic violence

  • Diagnosis of behavioural, emotional or developmental disorder

  • Social and relational challenges

  • Self-regulation challenges

  • School challenges

  • Attachment challenges with parents/adoptive parents/care givers/grandparents/foster-parent

Children may experience some of the following symptoms when distressed, Synergetic Play Therapy can help with:

  • Physical symptoms such as headaches or stomach aches

  • Difficulty sleeping, recurrent nightmares and chronic bed-wetting

  • Problems with eating or elimination

  • Excessive worry, sadness, anger or fear

  • Anxiety and/or separation anxiety

  • Excessive shyness or social withdrawal

  • Behavioral/developmental regression

  • Decline in academic functioning

  • Difficulty adjusting to family changes

  • Aggressive behavior (hurting self or others)

  • Pre-occupation with sexual behavior

  • Compulsive behaviour

The Process

After the initial 60 - 75 min intake session with parents/guardians, child-counsellor sessions will be scheduled. I will give the child a welcome goodie bag to help them feel comfortable and interested in starting therapy. It is important for parents to prepare their child for counselling sessions by explaining to them where they are going and why they are going there. It is better to be upfront with kids then to delay talking to them, or being wishy-washy about what's happening.

My professional recommendation would be a minimum commitment of 12 counselling sessions  for children in order for the assessment and treatment phase to have a meaningful therapeutic impact. However, for ongoing challenges and to address earlier developmental challenges several more sessions will likely be needed. If parents/guardians foresee this as being achievable we should discuss whether or not starting treatment at this time would beneficial for the child.


For the first 8 sessions the child and I are in a rapport building, and assessment phase in which I am getting to know the child while observing their play and typically am non-directive for the most part.


During this time, I may mix in directive play-based assessments to get a better understanding of the child's strengths and challenge areas.  This allows me to get to know the child and get a sense of re-occurring themes  to better form a comprehensive assessment of the child's specific concerns and needs which will then lead to relevant goal setting for treatment.


Part of the treatment plan may also include family involvement in the child’s therapy. Research shows that parent/guardian participation in therapy increases therapeutic progress and successful outcomes for the child. Even if this at-home participation with direction from me.

EMDR with Children

I also integrate EMDR in to therapy as I mentioned earlier, with some children, depending on their needs. EMDR helps children overcome the negative impacts of trauma. Trauma is very subjective and depends on the child's point of view in regards to what is troubling them. EMDR with children is a modified child-friendly version of how a therapist would practice with adults. It uses the integration of toys, bi-lateral stimulation, art and other age-appropriate techniques.


Some examples of potential trauma experiences below:


Natural disasters: war, earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes,

tsunami, avalanche etc


Relational trauma: bullying, physical, sexual, emotional, spiritual abuse and/or

neglect and abandonment, racism, sexism, homophobia, witnessing domestic

violence, persistent abuse of power by adults

Death & Loss: death of a loved one or pet, loss of important relationship,

witnessing death

Miscellaneous traumas:  a single scary incident, accident, personal failures,

social problems, animal nips, and nightmares etc

Medical/Dental: waking up during surgery with out parents, ongoing medical

problems, frightening experience in general

Divorce: perceived loss of family unit, caught in the middle, experiencing hostility, moving from one place to another, getting to know new family, new roles etc

Transitions: moving into a new grade, moving from childhood to adolescence, moving homes, living in new neighbourhood, getting to know a new family, new immigrants or refugees (culture shock, fleeing war or unpleasant circumstance in home country)

Trauma Symptoms

Children who have been traumatized primarily live in an activated state of either hyper-arousal or hypo-arousal meaning fight, flight, freeze or fall-asleep.  This can look different ways for different children, some symptoms include: persistent fears, anxiety, compulsive behavior, depression, sleep problems, aggression, impulsiveness, tired, confused, trouble concentrating, toileting issues, withdrawal from normal play, social isolation, cutting, using drugs or alcohol, risk-taking behaviours, suicidal ideation, withdraw from relationships, have phobias, rage, sexually intrusive behaviour, defiance to authority figures and mistrust in adults.

Click here to find out more about EMDR